By ROB MURRAY
AP Sports Writer
MOSCOW — Evander Holyfield has made up his mind. A loss to Sultan Ibragimov won’t stop him, nor will the approach of his 45th birthday.
‘‘My goal is to be the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world,’’ Holyfield said.
His trainer, Ronnie Shields, is less than enthusiastic about such a project.
‘‘I think he should take some time and think about what he wants to do,’’ he said. ‘‘I can’t make that decision for him.’’
Holyfield’s resume is one of the most extensive in boxing: four world heavyweight titles and the undisputed cruiserweight crown during a 23-year pro career.
Two other trainers, Jeff Mayweather and Freddie Roach, think it’s time for him to quit following a loss by unanimous decision Saturday night that allowed Ibragimov to keep the WBO title.
‘‘There’s always a time and his has come,’’ Roach said. ‘‘He’s got nothing left to prove. I’d hate to see him end up being hurt. He’s got a lot of money, but what’s that worth if you can’t count it?’’
Holyfield was attempting to become the second-oldest heavyweight champion — after George Foreman — and win a fifth world title as part of a bid to unify the division.
Holyfield turns 45 on Friday. Although the only time he ended up on the canvas was through a slip in the 11th round, he couldn’t counter Ibragimov’s superior hand and foot speed and rarely landed any combinations.
There were no knockdowns in the 12-round bout at Khodynka Arena and the judges scored it 118-110, 117-111 and 117-111.
Mayweather, Ibragimov’s trainer and the uncle of unbeaten welterweight champion Floyd Mayweather, was impressed with Holyfield’s chin and physical condition, but not his post-bout determination to continue fighting.
‘‘If he couldn’t get past this shot, it’s time to walk away,’’ Mayweather said. ‘‘It’s time to call it quits. He’s won the championship four times. What’s left to prove? The reality is that boxing is a young man’s sport. He’s 44 years old.
‘‘He’s got money. Walk away with some of your faculties. He’s been in so many wars, eventually something bad will happen if he continues. But there’s no need.’’
Holyfield’s record dropped to 42-9 with two draws. But he is only 6-6 with two draws since 1999.
Ibragimov fought from the outside, ducking in to deliver two- and three-punch combinations before retreating behind his long, accurate jab. He confused Holyfield with his southpaw stance and slippery defensive technique.
‘‘The guy wasn’t standing there when he hit me,’’ Holyfield said. ‘‘When I hit him with a nice shot, he was able to move or be able to make adjustments, which has something to do with being a smart fighter.
‘‘When I did hit him with a right hand, I was off balance because of how he positioned himself. He was just able to move and get away from the combinations, so it was hard for me to dictate.’’
Roach trained the left-handed Michael Moorer, whom Holyfield beat in 1997 to win the IBF belt and join Lennox Lewis and Muhammad Ali as three-time champs.
‘‘He was moving into Sultan’s left hand, which is his power hand,’’ Roach said. ‘‘I think if he had moved the other way, he would have been much more effective. He should have gone back to the style when he beat Moorer in the second fight. It was the perfect way to beat a southpaw.’’
Shields said his fighter just didn’t land enough punches to take the title off the Russian in his backyard. Asked if Holyfield should continue fighting, Shields hesitated.
‘‘I don’t know what he should do right now,’’ he said.
Foreman became the oldest heavyweight champ at 45 and 300 days by knocking out Moorer to win the WBA and IBF titles in 1994. Foreman was outboxed for nine rounds before connecting with a short right. Holyfield caught Ibragimov (22-0 with one draw) a couple of times, but never rocked him.
‘‘I’m not an easy fighter to beat,’’ Holyfield said. ‘‘He was able to follow a good game plan. I thought he was going away from his game plan when he was getting ready to slug with me, but somehow he changed his mind and got back outside.’’
Holyfield’s first world title was in 1986, a split decision over Dwight Muhammad Qawi to become WBA cruiserweight champ. He beat Ricky Parky (IBF) in 1987 and Carlos De Leon (WBC) a year later to unify the division before relinquishing his titles to move up to heavyweight in 1988.
In heavyweight title fights, Holyfield also beat James ‘‘Buster’’ Douglas (IBF, WBA, WBC) in 1990, Mike Tyson (WBA) in 1996 and John Ruiz (WBA) in 2000.
‘‘He’s one of the greatest heavyweights of all time,’’ Roach said. ‘‘Look what’s he done: cruiserweight going up to heavyweight, winning titles. He’s fought in some of the best fights ever. I would put him in the top five heavyweights of all time — at least. But it’s time for Evander to quit.’’
By ROB MURRAY
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